- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO — The numbers were staggering: 26 plays, 94 yards and a whopping 14 minutes and 26 seconds.

After Navy’s defense stuffed New Mexico just short of the goal line late in the third quarter, the Midshipmen’s offense embarked on a clock-winding, spirit-crushing drive.

“That’s just unheard of,” Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco said. “I’ve never seen a 14-1/2-minute drive before. The line just did a great job. We made every first down by about an inch.”

The march used virtually the entire fourth quarter and sealed a 34-19 victory for Navy (10-2) against the Lobos (7-5) yesterday in the Emerald Bowl before 30,563 at SBC Park.

That the drive only yielded a field goal was of little consequence. When the Mids regained possession at their 1, the first objective was to move out from the shadows of the goal post and the second to eat some clock. Five third-down conversions and one fourth-down trick play followed.

New Mexico’s offensive line — thought be a major advantage because it outweighed the Navy defensive front by nearly 60 pounds a man — was left on the sideline.

“It was huge,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “It was a great way to play defense. I joked with the guys afterward that I was a little disappointed we only got a field goal out of it.”

Polanco led the Mids with 136 yards rushing and a Navy bowl record three touchdowns. He also threw for 101 yards, including a beautiful 61-yard scoring strike to wideout Corey Dryden.

While Polanco fell just short of becoming the third quarterback in Navy history to throw and run for 1,000 yards in a season, he accomplished something else he’d never done. Polanco led the team in receptions for the game with two, both on throwback passes from slotback Frank Divis.

“It feels good after dropping so many of those in practice,” Polanco said. “I’ve got to give Frank props — they were both great throws.”

Added Divis: “In practice two days ago, we ran a similar play, and I threw it and it was only a 6-yard gain. The coaches and everybody were [criticizing me] for it — running a halfback pass and only getting six yards. That’s what [the fourth-down completion to Polanco] ended up being. We’ll take it.”

New Mexico outgained Navy in the first half by nearly 100 yards, but a pair of turnovers were costly. Junior running back DonTrell Moore, already the Mountain West Conference’s all-time leading rusher, left the game with a knee injury after a crushing blow from Navy cornerback Vaughn Kelley.

Moore was hit just as he received an option pitch and dropped the ball, which Navy’s Lane Jackson recovered at the Lobos’ 22.

“We’ve pretty much been seeing it all day, every day [in practice] — if [Moore] goes in motion and goes behind the quarterback, then the option is coming to that side,” Kelley said. “We were in cover-2, and I’m already in run support.”

On New Mexico’s next drive, Navy safety Josh Smith picked off quarterback Kole McKamey, and Polanco responded with his touchdown pass to Dryden two plays later.

Without Moore, McKamey became the focal point of the offense. The Lobos entered the game second-to-last in the nation in passing offense, but McKamey threw for 207 yards and a touchdown. He also led the Lobos with 138 yards rushing on 19 carries.

With the victory, Navy finished the season with double-digit victories for the second time in school history — and the first time in 99 years.

“I couldn’t be happier for our football team,” Johnson said. “I think they’ll go down in the annals as one of the very special Navy teams. … This is something nobody will ever be able to take away from this group.”

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